I am currently in Taiwan, but I’m going to share my exciting story of what God did the other day when I was still in China! God is so amazing!! It was so hard to restrain myself from writing about it, but because of the way woman reacted, I felt it best to be a little cautious and not share what happened until I left. I was probably just being paranoid, but you hear all these stories of the Communist Party reading outgoing emails and blog posts so I decided not to take any chances.
Anyway, from the moment I stepped off the plane in the Philippines I had not had a minute to myself. Literally every moment has been spent with my co-workers or my host family, or my students, or the villagers. For an introvert who lives by themselves and is used to a lot of alone time, it’s a little difficult to always be “on”. I needed a few minutes to clear my head and unwind so when we finally got some downtime, I decided to take a walk. On my way out the door, something told me to grab my bag. I realize now that it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
I had intended on pretty much just walking a straight line so that I wouldn’t get lost, but when I got to a fork in the road I heard a voice tell me to go left. It was not a literal voice that I heard with my ear. I just heard it like a thought in my head, but it was the voice of my Chinese teacher (from my dreams)! Immediately, I remembered the lessons where he coached me to move left, or move right, or step back etc. without hesitation. Obedience. So I went left. I walked a ways further, and again I felt a prompting to take another left. So I did. Then I felt to just walk straight for awhile.
After a bit, I walked by a woman sitting on a bench. She called out to me, “Mei guo ren, mei guo ren” (American, American). I just ignored her because this has happened several times simply because people are surprised to see Westerners. But then she called out in English saying, “Miss?” I stopped. She spoke in a very thick accent so I had to strain to understand, but she said, “Miss, you are missionary or you are here for company?” I was surprised by the question, but just said, “I’m here with my company.” She looked really disappointed and just said, “oh, okay.” I started to walk away, but something about the disappointment in her voice stopped me. I turned back and asked why she wanted to know. She said, “Your God told me to come to wait on the bench until the missionary come.” At this I was taken aback. The Spirit had also prompted me to go there by taking those left turns. I sat next to her on the bench. I figured she must have some Christian understanding because she used the word missionary. She also seemed to associate this word with Americans since she called out to me. And she said “Your God”. This woman didn’t know anything about me so to say “Your God” was interesting to me. It’s exactly the way that my ex-boyfriend used to refer to God before he came to know Him for himself. I asked her if there was something she wanted to know. She said, “Yes, did American take their God from Jewish God? There was a man Abraham. And Jewish God promise him a lot of children and promise him he inherit what God have, right? Why Americans think they can have this God when they not from Abraham. Doesn’t the Jewish God make this promise to Abraham’s family?” I realized this was a very important question because she wasn’t really asking me about Americans. She wanted to understand how the rights and privileges of a child of God got extended to gentiles. Somehow, somewhere she had some teaching, but it was incomplete. She was longing to be part of God’s family, but if Americans didn’t really have a right to this God, then logically she wouldn’t either.
I had a bible in my bag. I wanted to take it out and show her some things, but teaching the bible outside the government sanctioned Three Self Church is illegal. Granted, persecution is nothing like it used to be, but an American will be arrested (and likely deported) if they bring their bible out and publicly start sharing it. It is fine to bring your bible into the country for personal reasons, but you can’t share it with others. But then I had an idea! I pulled out my phone. I have an offline version of the Bible in English and Chinese on my phone. If someone were to see her looking at a phone, they wouldn’t think anything of it. I started scrolling through Galatians. I knew what I was looking for was in that book, but I wasn’t sure what the exact verse was. Finally, I found it. Galatians 3:29, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” I read it in English and then switched it to the Chinese to let her read it for herself. I apologized that I only had a version with traditional characters. She excitedly told me that she knows how to read traditional Chinese. I explained, “If you belong to Christ –to Jesus, then God sees you as a descendant of Abraham and you get all the same privileges and blessings. Anyone; American, French, Korean, Chinese, anyone can be a seed of Abraham. They just have to belong to Christ. I told her that belonging to Jesus is where the real blessing lies. “The point is not to belong to Abraham, it’s to belong to Jesus because He is the only who can save us.” I asked her if she belonged to Jesus. She looked around nervously and began almost to whisper. She said she had started going to a church in a friend’s house. She continued looking around nervously. She said the problem is that they only have a small portion of the bible and the part they have talks about Abraham and so she thought maybe we stole the Jewish God. She said, “I know they sell bibles in the city, but they are government bibles and people here can’t afford to go to the city and buy them anyway so we just read about Abraham over and over.”
Suddenly I knew why I was there! When my ex-boyfriend sent me my Chinese/English bible, he actually sent me two bibles. One is the Chinese/English parallel and the second one was a Chinese/Pinyin parallel bible. He thought that would be helpful to me because I could see how the characters were pronounced if I came across one I had never seen. The trouble is that knowing how to pronounce a character does absolutely no good if you don’t know what the character means. Therefore, since that bible didn’t have any English, it wasn’t of much use to me. My Chinese is not nearly good enough to not have an English translation so I never use that bible. When I was packing for this trip, on a whim I threw that Bible (along with my regular bible) in my bag. I thought I might have an opportunity to witness to someone in Taiwan and then we’d both have a Bible to look at. It didn’t occur to me that this would happen in China because of the Traditional characters. But actually a Chinese/pinyin Bible is perfect for someone in China because in China they learn pinyin in school. If she came across a traditional character that she didn’t know, she could look at the pinyin, and through context would probably be able to figure out what simplified character it represented.
I hesitatingly told the woman I had something for her. As I was reaching in my bag, she said, “no no, you don’t need to give me anything”, but when I pulled out the Bible and handed it to her, her eyes got wide. She snatched it and hid it under her shirt. Then she looked around to make sure no one was watching and pulled it back out. She held it to her face. She kissed it! Then she clutched it tightly to her chest holding it in her arms. She quickly hid it under her shirt again. With tears in her eyes she said, “oh meiguoren, I knew you’d come.” We talked for just a few more minutes. I briefly told her about the book of Acts and that she should be baptized in Jesus name. She said she’d study the whole bible and share it with the church.
She told me how when she was a kid her grandmother had forced her to learn the traditional version of every simplified character she learned in school. She’d spend hours writing out the simplified characters and then her grandmother would make her spend hours more writing out the same characters in traditional form. She said she had resented it at the time, but now she knew it was all worth it. Then she admonished me not to tell anyone in China that I had given her the Bible. She was quite nervous the whole time which made me pretty nervous too, but I was sure that God was in it!
Now that I’m safely in Taiwan I felt to share this amazing testimony. We seriously have no idea what a privilege it is to have Bibles so readily available to us. Watching the way this woman held the Word of God was a reminder to me of how precious the Word of God truly is! Pray for this woman and her church!